Visiting “Rikushu-no-matsu (陸舟の松)”

I visited Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto last weekend. Kankaku-ji (The golden pavilion) is one of the most iconic site in Kyoto. Autumn is one of the best season to visit there.  Autumn colour of maple leaves enhance its beauty. The pond surrounding Kinkaku-ji is called Kyokochi pond (鏡湖池, mirror pond) that reflects Kinkaku-ji on its surface.

Kinkakuji with Momiji

There are many articles about Kinkaku-ji available online, so that I don’t write about it here, but would like to touch on “Rikushu-no-matsu (陸舟の松)”.


“Rikushu-no-matsu” is located in the garden of Shoin (Study Hall) at the east side of the Kyokochi pond.


The Japanese white pine tree of “Rikushu-no-matsu” was originally from a Bonsai grown and cared by Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利 義満, Sept 25, 1358 – May 31, 1408), the 3rd shōgun of the Ashikaga shogunate. Yoshimitsu firstly planted the Bonsai tree in the ground, then trained it like a boat shape. As Yoshimitsu  grew this from Bonsai by himself, the age of the tree is estimated about 600 years old.  As the head of the ship is heading westward, it is said that the ship was made from the idea of heading toward the Buddha’s Land of Bliss in the west.

Kinkakuji ohuda

By the way, one of the reasons came from the recently released film, “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  It is a film about Freddie Mercury’s life, a  legendary lead singer of Queen. Freddie is known as a Japanophile and things Japanese are seen in some scenes in the film. In one scene, I found an amulet from Kinkaku-ji stuck onto the wall of Fredde’s house!  I may have visited there.


Murakami asks that people learn to live with their ‘shadows’

THE ASAHI SHIMBUNOctober 31, 2016 at 16:40 JST

Via Asahi newspaper

蓬莱山:Hōrai-san – A Vision of Utopia


Via 着物作家の笑える日々

For celebrating festivities or a moment of wishing good fortune and be superstitious, we have a tradition in Japan to use crafts and wear things like Kimono, which certain patterns so called Kisshō-Monyō (吉祥文様) – auspicious omens motives are applied. Beginning of new year is one of such moments.

There are several motives inspired by living creatures, such as fishes, animals, birds, plants, flowers and fruits, or tools used in a festivities. Living creatures such as dragon, phenix, crane or pine, bamboo, plum and more, often symbolize long lives, good harvest, blessing of rains, eternal love. These pattens are used as a motif of porcelains, lacquer wears or clothes (becomes kimono and obi).

Monyou coral

Monyou Dragon fly

It is unfortunate that the custom has been disappearing and it is not at least something we proactively enjoy in our lives.  We only see it in the formalized traditional events without paying too much attentions.

There are many kinds of particular patterns used for celebrating festivities but I would like to pick up a pattern called Hōrai-mon (蓬莱文) this time.

The concept of Hōraisan(蓬莱山) came from China. From 2500 years ago, people believed that there is a utopia island in the eastern see of China. Hōrai mountain is on the island where a legendary wizard lives who is no aging nor death. Hōrai mountain was also believed as high so to extend to the heaven. At the bottom of the mountain, there is a river where dragons live. On the top of the mountain, phenix that can climb to the heaven lives by eating peaches and peers.

houraisan Taikan Yokoyama

Hōraisan by Taikan Yokohama

Interestingly, at the era of the First Emperor of the Qin dynasty (秦始皇帝, BC259~), Hōraisan –  a utopia island was believed to be located where Japan is. The record said that the First Emperor of the Qin sent people to the island in far east to investigate the Utopia and there are more than 10 places that the Qin’s messengers visited in Japan from the north to the south.

Hōraisan that symbolize immortality evolved to be one of auspicious omens motives. Today we can find Hōraisan pattern in crafts, architectures, garden, paintings and fairly tales.


Houraisan Kimono

Hōraisan-mon consists pine trees, cranes, turtles and plum blossoms – those are all considered as auspicious. Hōrai mountain is built on the carapace of a turtle. it is therefore, even if one tries to capture the Utopia, it runs away quickly so that one can never be able to acquire it.

Cai Guo-Qiang’s Penglai/Hōrai at Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial 2015

In the centre pond of Echigo-Tsumari Satoyama Museum of Contemporary Art / KINARE, a huge mountain was exhibited till September 27, 2015.

This mountain is the artwork, Penglai / Hōrai, by Cai Guo-Qiang (蔡國強),  an internationally acclaimed Chinese comtemporary artist. You may know him as a Creative director for the opening and closing ceremony of Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The theme of this dynamic installation is, as you can guess from the title of the artwork – Penglai/Hōrai, the legendary utopia island.

It is only a month from now to unveil the impressive solo exhibition “Cai Guo-Qiang : Penglai/Horai”.

Horaisan by Cai Guo-Qiang

Cali expressed humour and ironies in this installation by responding the recent source of tension around ‘islands’ among countries in East Asia. From the front, the island is covered by rich greenery trees and thousands of straw-made birds and objects are laid around the island. But going around the back,  one realizes that the island is just like a standing signboard.

Behind the Utopia

People dream of a Utopia. It is the same now as of old.  But if we are tenacious in our pursuit of capturing it, we will only get lost. Remember! a Utopia is on the carapace of a turtle! It just agilely escape and you may lose even a illusion of Utopia completely from your mind.



‘Fur Tree’ installation by Makoto Azuma (東信) at FENDI Ginza boutique

I visited Fendi pop-up store in Ginza, which opened in November 20 2015 for 50th anniversary of the first shop opening in Japan.

Fendi Pop up

Fendi is one of my favourite brands but the purpose of my visit was to have a look at Makoto Azuma (東信)‘s fur tree that is exhibited at the centre of the boutique.

Fur tree

Fendi is an Italian luxury brand, which collection includes ready-to-wear, leather goods, shoes, fragrances, eyewear, but the brand is originated from fur and leather goods and it is still renowned for its exquisite creations on fur and fur accessories. Fur Tree by Makoto Azuma represents the root of the brand.

Makoto Azuma is the Tokyo-based flower artist, who is known for his botanical sculptures. Azuma places live pine trees inside a steel cube. The contrast of nature and armor increases its beauty of pine’s form. He chose pine tree as it is believed that Gods dwell in the tree.

Azuma worked on the installation of the pine tree (so-called ‘Shiki’) in awe-inspiring locations and surprising settings on earth.  Placed on a yellow expanse of sand dunes, floating along glaciers in a turquoise sea, underwater, under water fall, or on an abandoned power plant.  ‘Shiki’ was even sent into space.

When I heard about the fur tree in Fendi Pop-up store, I expected the same sort of unique and dynamic installation as his series of work with ‘Shiki’, but I was a little disappointed by the tree. The large  tree seems uncomfortably sitting in unsuitable small space. Fur tree may be missing gods.

The process of creating fur tree can be seen in the below YouTube video.

I would like to introduce some of Azuma‘s great work with ‘Shiki’ series.

azuma-makoto-duneazuma-makoto-Glacierazuma-makoto-Underwaterazuma-makoto-Waterfallazuma-makoto-power plantazuma-makoto-space

All photos from Architectural Digest: A Bonsai Travels to the Wildest Places on Earth

If you are interested in Makoto Azuma, you can find more info from here.

Azuma Makoto’s Exhibition is available:
Date: November 13, 2015 – January 17, 2016
Place: Le colysee in Lambersart, Lille metropole, France



Happy New Year 2016

Wishing you a Happy New Year with the hope that you will have many blessings and your creative dreams come true in 2016.

Monkey with sun rise

Thank you all for visiting my blog and see you soon in 2016 with new contents in Takumist.


九谷焼:Kutani ware – New wave

I had a chance to meet with a young talented artist, Mai Kitai (北井真衣) from Kanazawa.   She makes Kutani porcelain by using the technic inspired by Mokubei Aoki, who is a porcelain artist back in 17th Century and was brought to Kutani to re-established Kutani ware.


“I have heard that Kutani porcelains use motives from a slice of daily life, that inspired me” – Mai Kitai

What I was most interested was her unique themes and motifs. Working woman on her way to the office, two business men exchanging a business card, a girl applying a mascara sitting down on a bench at a part…… A slice of our modern life is drawn in her own nonchalant touches. Those scenes seem so familiar and provoke laughter.

The below pictures are only some example of teacups. The price for one cut is 8,000 yen (excluding tax).

I am keen to see how her work will evolve. I am sure her style will attract new segment of people to the world of Kutani ware.




About Mai Kitai: 

Born in 1985 in kanazawa. Ceramic artist. After graduated from Kanazawa Kogyo University in 2008, she decided to pursue her career as a ceramic artist.  She graduated from Kanazawa college of art and gained a master degree in 2015.  She selects what she feels and observes in the modern daily life as a theme for her work. Once the theme is applied to her work,   the familiar everyday life  becomes unusual. She wants to express this transformation into a form of commodity products.

If you are interested in her work;


Kokoshi cafe (


北斎 : Hokusai exhibition at Museum of Fine Arts Boston


Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) was the first Japanese artist to be internationally recognized, and he continues to inspire artists around the world. 

The exhibition is running  during April 5, 2015 – August 9, 2015 at Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Ann and Graham Gund Gallery (Gallery LG31)  

Museum of Fine Arts Boston is the home of the largest and finest collection of Japanese art  outside Japan.

Kimono Promotion Yields to Outrage at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts

Claude Monet's La Japonaise

From The New York Times:
A promotion in which visitors posed in a kimono before a Monet painting was recast after protests surfaced online.

The article is here.

The recent removal of Makoto Aida’s artwork “檄” from Museum of Contemporary Art is a similar case. The art is 6 meter long white banner hanging from the ceiling, where he expresses his opinion toward the Ministry of Education by the bold touch of brush.  There was only one claim to the museum to conclude with this decision.

tumblr_Makoko Aida


I would like to close this blog with a famous quote of Voltaire, a French philosopher:

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”



Meeting with Ise-Katagami Artisan Isao Uchida (内田 勲)part 2


About 4 months ago, I visited Ise-Katagami artisan Isao Uchida in Shiroko and wrote about it here.  Today, there was a workshop with him in Tokyo and I had an another chance to hear his story. Artisan Uchida

The topic flew from his apprenticeship period to the rise and fall of katagami industry.

At the peak period during 1970-1975, he had orders of katagami (paper stencil) production as much as he couldn’t have enough time to sleep. Order mainly came from Kyoto, where had a demand for semi-formal kimonos for women.



For making one kimono, some dozens to hundreds of katagami are required. There was a middleman between a dyer and a katagami artisan and the final design and colors were not often fully shared, therefore, engraving the stencil by imagining how the colors and design patterns are combined was really a complex work. Good katagami artisan needs to be clever enough. The peak period was over after 5,6 years when Nylon made stencil took it over. Artisan Uchida will be 71 years old this year and he still feels he is inferior. Most of his junior left the business due to the fall in the industry.  He is one of the youngest among 20 some existing katagami artisans.


There are katagami, which even an accomplished artisan as Uchida highly appreciates. Such katagami has its hold on life. The drawn flowers and leafs are vivid and have vigor.

The patterns on katagami are so refined and tiny. It may be difficult to find such a difference in detail for an ordinary person.

In Japan, there is a saying, “what an artisan earns by day he spends by night”.  It is because an artisan becomes lazy and stop working once he earns enough money. If he stops working, he loses his touch. Therefore, he shouldn’t keep his earnings and continue to work to keep up his skills.


First step of making katagami is to develop ‘shouhon (小本)’, which is about the size of 12cmx12cm square.  Katagami patterns are repetition of this square. Artisan Uchida says that once he develops shouhon, a half of his work is over.

Until recently, the order of katagami development came from a middleman, therefore, it was often the case that a katagami artisan has never seen the final product-the dyed kimono with his katagami. But today, artisan Uchida tries to directly work with a dyer.

He created “Gonin-gumi (composed of 5 persons)” with other katagami artisans and dyers and develop kimono textiles together. I found this an interesting movement as producing kimono textiles used to be a role of kimono wholesale dealers and they were the one who took the most part of margins from the sales. Now they do not involve such dealers.

This initiative came from a compelling succession issue. There is no sufficient demand for katagami production as much as an artisan can live only relying on this.

When Artisan Uchida was still in his apprentice, his master earned good money as a katagami artisan. Artisan Uchida naturally desired to be like his master and it was his key motivation to eagerly learn and be the skillful artisan. But now, he can’t propose such a attractive vision to his apprentices, therefore, they do not put their effort to master skills.  If the current situation continues, the techniques of katagami artisan will definitely disappear soon. Artisan Uchida wants to present a new way of living as a katagami artisan through ‘Gonin-gumi”s initiative.

I recalled his words from my last visit to Shiroko.

“The technique, which has endured for about 1000 years, is about to run its course during our era. What we are charged to do is to cultivate our successors.”

More young Japanese has been showing interests in kimono, but the little increase won’t be able to cultivate enough demands to sustain the katagami industry.  The market is globe. Perhaps, foreign blood could discover completely new purposes of using the paper stencils skills and find a way to survive? My wishful thinking….


stripe patterns

水引き(Mizuhiki): A charm of knots

‘Connecting people’, ‘Uniting people’….these are the phrase we often hear and use today. In the era of smart phone, people can be always hooked and reachable literally anywhere and anytime.

‘繋ぐ (connecting)’, ‘繋がる(being connected)’, these are the buzz word in Japan, certainly after March 11, 2011 when we had the massive earthquake and Tsunami disaster in the northern part of Japan. We experienced the modern technology was useless under the natural disaster beyond our imagination, but it gave us an opportunity to recognize the importance of “togetherness”, physically and at heart. It really gives us an extra power to get over, perhaps, one of the toughest moment for many people.

Knots has an association with the symbolism of love, friendship and affection. The knots motif can be found in legend, old stories and custom in many countries across Western and Eastern world.

In Japan, we have a custom to use ‘Mizuhiki (水引き)’ for a specific event such as birth, wedding ceremony, funeral service. Mizuhiki knot is associated with the Japanese word ‘musubu (結ぶ)’ meaning ‘connection’ or ‘tying’. As the name tells, attaching Mizuhiki conveys warmth, connection and togetherness.


Photo from Kurume machi tabi official blog

Mizuhiki is made from twisted, traditional Japanese paper, which is made into a string hardened with starch.


How the tradition of mizuhiki started is rather funny. When packages arrived from Sui dynasty of China in 607 AD, the packages were tied up with red and white codes. Government officials who saw the codes misunderstood that the codes were meant to show respects and wishing ‘Bon voyage’ from Sui dynasty, while Sui dynasty tied them with codes just to distinguish goods for export from ones for themselves. It is interesting to see the naive misunderstanding of Japanese created such a ritual, which is still kept in Japan. Is it an irony of fate or a trick of fortune?

Knots are seen in the western world equally to symbolize connecting people and safe journey. ‘True love knot ‘ is the romantic one. There are many examples featuring sailors separated from their loved ones. True_Lover's_knot

It is said that true love knot was once common for sailors’ wedding rings. No wonder there are many jewelry using ‘love knot’ as a motif.

The one I still remember well is ‘Algerian Love Knot Necklace’ appeared in the movie ‘007 Casino Royale’.

Love knot necklace

Eva Green playing a role of Vesper Lynd worn throughout the movie and was subtly hinting her lost live in the past.

This piece of jewellery is created from twisteva green with love knot necklaceed gold and silver rings, multi layered chains, and featuring a winged heart clasp which is a signature of the designer, Sophie Harley.

Knots are also a popular motif in the art scene. Lynda Bengalis is known with her artworks with knots as a motif. The first time I noticed her knot shaped sculpture was at MoMA in NYC.  The motif of knots somehow reminded me Mizuhiki and perhaps because it was in 2011, my eyes were caught by the metallic knots and I stopped in front of the work for a while but without knowing the sculptor’s idea behind the work.

Lynda Benglis

Photo from 15 Badass Art World Heroines Over 70 Years Old

“My work is an expression of space. What is the experience of moving? Is it pictorial? Is it an object? Is it a feeling? It all comes from my body. I am the clay; I have been extruded, in a sense. How to tie it together? I don’t need to tie a knot. The forms of knots in my earlier work were expressive of this idea. I am the form.” – Lynda Benglis

There are two major regions for the production of Mizuhiki in Japan, one is in Kanazawa in Ishikawa prefecture and another is in Iida in Nagano prefecture. I leave some directory below.

Iida in Nagano prefecture:

Mizuhiki Crafts Gallery Skijima (

Iida Mizuhiki Association (

Kanazawa in Ishikawa prefecture:

Tsuda Mizuhiki (

Chitose Mizuhiki (

Jiyukajin (